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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Title:The Word of Contentment
Text:Luke 23:46 (View)
Occasion:Easter (Good Friday)
Topic:Christ's Suffering
 
Preached:2018
Added:2018-06-28
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 42:1-3

Hymn 25:4 (after the law of God)

Psalm 31:1-3

Hymn 26

Hymn 27

Scripture reading: Luke 23:32-49

Text: Luke 23:46

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ,

When a well-known figure dies, people are often interested in knowing their last words.  Online you can find collections of famous last words.  Sir Winston Churchill said, “I’m bored with it all.”  Karl Marx supposedly said, “Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough.”  Julius Caesar was assassinated and as he was dying he turned to his friend Brutus and said, “Et tu Brute?”  “Even you, Brutus?” 

In our text for this Good Friday we find what could be called the famous last words of Jesus.  They are the last words he speaks before he dies.  There are seven words or sayings that come from his lips while he hangs on the cross and this is the last of them.  However, to say that these are Jesus’ famous last words is not really accurate.  While they are the last words he speaks before he dies, they are not the last words he speaks on this earth.  Three days later he rises from the dead and he has far more to say and that makes these “famous last words” have their own special character. 

The seventh word from the cross is often called the Word of Contentment and it contains the final cry of our Saviour in his suffering.  We’re going to look at this saying and we’ll consider:

  1. Who shouted it
  2. To whom he shouted it
  3. Why he shouted it

Our text brings us to the cross on Golgotha.  Two significant things happened right before the final cry of our Saviour.  In verse 44, the Holy Spirit tells us that a supernatural darkness fell over the whole land from 12:00 to 3:00 PM.  It was supernatural – there’s no natural explanation for a darkness lasting three hours in the middle of the day.  It could not have been a normal eclipse.  No, God turned out the lights as he poured out his wrath on Jesus.  Our Saviour suffered the worst of his sufferings in complete darkness.

Then verse 45 tells us something remarkable also happened at the temple.  The curtain of the temple was torn in two.  Again, this was something supernatural.  When you read “curtain,” you have to understand that this curtain was incredibly thick and tall.  It was 18 meters high and 9 meters wide.  No human being could have torn it.  No natural phenomenon could explain its tearing.  God himself had torn it in two.  After Jesus had suffered the full measure of God’s wrath, God tore the temple curtain in two to symbolize that the Old Testament sacrificial system was no longer needed.  This was the beginning of a new era.  The temple had become obsolete. 

In verse 46, our attention goes back to Calvary and the One hoisted on the middle cross.  He hangs there naked -- his only adornment is the crown of thorns.  He is bruised and bleeding.  He was already bleeding before the cross – the Romans always scourged people before crucifying them.  But having rough nails placed through your wrists and legs would have resulted in yet more blood loss.  He has suffered tremendously up to this point, more than any other human being in history.  It was not just the physical suffering of crucifixion and everything leading up to it, but the suffering of God’s infinite wrath being poured out on him.  He has completely drunk the cup of God’s wrath against sinners.

This man is Jesus.  You’ll remember what his name means:  God saves.  Before he was born, Mary was told in Luke 1:31 to call him “Jesus.”  Similarly, his foster father Joseph was told to call him “Jesus” in Matthew 1:21.  In Matthew, we’re also told why he was to be called that: “for he will save his people from their sins.”  Jesus came into this world to be a Saviour.  He came on a rescue mission.  For 33 years, he was preparing for the cross.  To save his people from their sins, he would have to bear their sins and die their death.  In Luke 23, we see him having already taken the curse.  He has experienced the wrath of God in the darkness.  Now the only thing remaining is to die.  As Romans 6:23 says, the wages of sin is death – to be our Saviour, he must be fully paid.  He hasn’t earned these wages, but he has chosen to have them placed on his account.   So he must not only take our hell, but also die our death.  For him to live up to his name, he has to go all the way to the grave.  That’s what we see him doing in our text. 

Right before he does, he calls out with a loud voice.  This is important.  He didn’t whisper these words, but shouted them.  Why?  Because he wanted everyone to hear.  As he was about to die, he wanted to make something abundantly clear to everyone near the cross.  He died publically, but before he did that he also made a public pronouncement. 

This public pronouncement was addressed to someone.  As we’ll see in a few moments, Jesus quotes from Psalm 31:5, but he adds an important word not in that psalm.  It’s the word “Father.”  Jesus is speaking to God and addresses him as “Father.”  He shouts out that God is still his Father.  Even though he has experienced God’s wrath and has been forsaken by him, God is still his Father.  God may have poured out hell on Jesus on the cross, but our Saviour never turned his back on God.  Through all his suffering, he continued to be faithful to the Father.  Now that the worst of his suffering is over, he announces publically that he still looks to God as his Father.  Despite the cross, that relationship remains intact.

Loved ones, because of what Jesus endured in our place, we also have the privilege of addressing God as our Father.  When we pray, many of us are in the habit of using the word ‘Lord’ to address God.  In itself, this is not wrong or sinful.  God is Lord, he is our master and owner.  All that is true.  Yet that’s a more Old Testament way of speaking to God.  In the New Testament, our Lord Jesus comes and teaches us by his word and by his example that we can address God as our Father.  We have this privilege of speaking with our Creator as children with their father.  The exalted God tells us that our relationship with him is intimate, a close family relationship. We can call God “Father,” because that’s what he is in relation to us.  We ought to use this privilege as much as we can.  As we do, it becomes firmer in our own hearts and minds who God is and who we are.  He is our Father and we are his children.  Having taken our place on the cross, Jesus has won this privilege for us.  After the most hellish part of his suffering, he calls God his Father, and all believers can do likewise.

So the Saviour Jesus shouted these words to his Father, to the One he never abandoned.  Now we can look closer at the words themselves and what they mean.  He shouted, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”  I’ve already mentioned that these words come from Psalm 31:5.  As he is about to die, Jesus takes the words of Scripture on his lips. 

Psalm 31 is a psalm of David.  It’s what we call a lament.  As he so often did, King David was facing enemies intent on destroying him.  In the face of that challenge in his life, David expressed his confidence in God’s power to keep him safe.  In verses 3 and 4 of Psalm 31, David confesses that God is his rock, fortress, and refuge.  All three of those, rock, fortress, refuge, they all picture the same thing:  powerful safety.  And in Psalm 31:5 when David says, “Into your hand I commit my spirit,” he is not facing imminent death.  In fact, at that point he is looking back and has seen God’s deliverance.  As he looks forward to continuing in life, he says, “Into your hand I commit my spirit.”  That’s important to note here.  The original context of Psalm 31:5 speaks of going on in life. 

Now Jesus takes those words and he shouts them as he is about to die.  Using Psalm 31:5 like this, our Saviour is sending a hint that his death is not the end.  He dies, but yet he will live.  There is Good Friday and death on the cross, but there’s also Easter Sunday and the empty tomb.  Death does not have the last word.  Death is going to be swallowed up in victory.  What you see at the cross in Luke 23:46 is not the final chapter.  All this is hinted at in Jesus’ choice of last words before his death.  He has deliberately chosen these words.

Sometimes you’ll read that he chose these words because Jews used Psalm 31:5 as a short evening prayer.  Before they laid down to go down to sleep, this was their standard prayer, or so we’re told.  Klaas Schilder makes a lot out of that in his book Christ Crucified.  However, the use of Psalm 31:5 as an evening prayer is actually a later development.  Jews started using this as an evening prayer some years after Christ’s ministry on earth.  So you can’t read that back into how or why Jesus chooses these words.  It doesn’t make sense. 

Jesus says, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  Jesus is shouting out that his death is deliberate and pro-active.  He is not having his life taken away from him against his will.  Instead, he is fulfilling what he said in John 10:18.  He said that no one takes his life from him, but he lays it down of his own accord.  Jesus does not die reluctantly or passively, but intentionally and actively, knowing full well what he was doing and why he had to do it. 

He said that he was committing his spirit into the hands of the Father.  “His spirit” here refers to his human soul.  Human beings are made up of two parts:  we have a material part we call a body and an immaterial part called a soul.  Sometimes soul and spirit are interchangeable in the Bible, and so it is here.  Jesus is saying that he commits the immaterial part of his human existence into the Father’s hands.  Remember that Jesus is true God and true man.  He is speaking here from the perspective of his human nature.  His divine nature is always and forever in communion with the other persons of the Trinity.  But now it’s his human soul that is being entrusted to God as he is about to die.  That makes sense because he dies as a human being.  His human nature dies on the cross.  By its very nature, his divinity cannot die.  God cannot die.  But human beings do, and Jesus was and is a human being too.

He commits his spirit into the hands of the Father.  God’s hands are symbolic of his power and strength.  God is a spiritual being, so he does not have literal, physical hands.  Jesus is saying that he entrusts his human soul into God’s powerful care.  He is expressing his confidence that after death, his human soul will be surrounded by God’s strength.  He will be in God’s protective presence and he is supremely content with that.  Here you can think back to what he said to the repentant believing criminal in verse 43, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”  When Jesus died, he went to Paradise, to heaven.  When Jesus died, his human soul was in the hands of the Father, in loving and protective hands.  A popular misconception is that Jesus went to hell when he died.  We don’t believe that.  Scripture doesn’t teach that.  Again, look at verse 43, “today you will be with me in Paradise.”  It means what it says.  And here in verse 46, “into your hands I commit my spirit,” means the same thing.  It means that Jesus was confident that after his death, just as for David in his life in Psalm 31, God would be the mighty rock, fortress, and refuge of his soul.

With these words, Christ was also offering up the sacrifice of his death in our place.  To complete his rescue mission for us, he not only had to suffer, but also to die.  Here he makes it clear that his death is deliberately offered up to God for us.  And remember that as he suffers and as he dies, he does so with our names on his heart.  He has every Christian in his heart.  He loves us as he offers up the sacrifice of his life in our place.

It’s important to remember that as you look at the last words of verse 46, “And having said this he breathed his last.”  He took one last breath and then intentionally gave up his life for you and for all believers.  He died so that you would not have to die eternally.  His death is the death of your spiritual death.  And he died so that your physical death would be different. 

The Puritans used to speak of the importance of dying well.  By that they meant that, if you could help it, it was valuable to leave this world in a way that would encourage those left behind.  After you’re gone, you would want your family to be comforted knowing you embraced the promises of the gospel.  You don’t always have a say in how that goes.  Sometimes death can take you by surprise and you don’t have an opportunity to say any last words to family or friends.  You never know.  But you could also be one of those people who knows they are dying.  You have a disease.  You’ve been told it is only a matter of time.  Maybe you will have an opportunity to say some last words to family and friends.  The words of Christ in our text are a good model or example to remember for those situations:  “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  One bought with the blood of Jesus can say those words too before death.  In fact, in the book of Acts we hear someone saying similar words.  Before he dies while being stoned, we hear Stephen saying in Acts 7:59, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”  Those are words of faith that encourage those left behind.  If your last words are words of confidence, that stokes the comfort of your believing family and friends.  Wouldn’t you want to leave them with that? 

But it’s not only good to die well, it’s also important to live well.  The last words of our Saviour are not just his dying words, but they are words that exemplified his whole life.  Throughout his life, he was committed in faith to his Father.  It’s not as if suddenly on the cross he decided that now would be a good time to get right with God.  No, his words on the cross were the culmination of a whole life of faithful commitment to God.  So it ought to be with us too, brothers and sisters.  Our whole life ought to be one where we have entrusted ourselves into the hands of God our Father.  It’s not just something for death, but for all of life.  Jesus is our Master and we are his disciples.  With his words here, he teaches us too to commit ourselves to God, as he did.  Fellow disciples, we ought always to realize that our lives are not in our hands.  Our bodies are not in our hands, nor are our souls.  We are not our own.  We belong in our Father’s hands, and we should consciously recognize that every day and live accordingly.                

In our passage we hear our Saviour’s last cry.  It’s a loud public encouragement to all Christians.  Our Jesus was faithful to the end.  In love, he offered up his life for our life.  His redemption for us went all the way.  Everything required for our salvation was done by him.  He did it all intentionally and he did it all personally – for every single believer.  He bore our curse and experienced our hell.  The Saviour then died in our place too.  He experienced death, tasted it fully, so our punishment would be completely turned away.  Now the gospel promises all who believe in him a place in Paradise with him.  What can you do but continue to trust him and love him with all your heart?  AMEN.      

PRAYER

Our dear Saviour and Lord,

We praise your name this morning again for what you did on the cross.  Thank you for bearing our curse and experiencing our hell.  Thank you also for dying in our place.  Because you did this, we will never know the infinite wrath we deserve.  You did all this intentionally with love in your heart for us and for that we will always exalt you.  We put you on that cross and yet you chose to bear it.  Our sins pierced your hands and feet, yet you willingly endured it.  We placed the crown of thorns on your head, yet you lovingly accepted it.  Dear Saviour, we love you for having first so greatly loved us.  O Lamb of God, you are worthy to be praised forever.  We pray that you would further work in our lives with your Holy Spirit.  Create in us hearts that are as committed to the Father as you are.  Help us always to entrust ourselves to the Father as you did, both in life and in death.  Please work in us with your Spirit so we give all praise and glory to you and to the Father and to the Spirit, one only true God.  AMEN. 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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